Bill Belichick once said that a “Tough” Football Team does 3 things well. They run the football, they stop the run and they…. cover kicks?

While on Barstool Sports Podcast “Pardon My Take” yesterday, former New England Patriots WR Julian Edelman shared that quote from Belichick regarding Tough Football Teams. During the podcast, host Dan Katz asked Edelman his opinion on the 3 Toughest Teams in the NFL, from a physicality and grittiness standpoint – not necessarily the 3 Best Teams in the NFL.

Edelman, now a regular analyst on the show “Inside the NFL”, said “What defines a tough football team? From what I was taught from some guy named Bill, a tough football team can run the ball, can stop the run and can cover kicks. What teams do that the best? Baltimore, Patriots, Tennessee. Those are 3 teams that I think of hard, tough football teams.”

What about the Packers? The question was asked towards Edelman a few minutes into the conversation.

“They are a hard (tough) team. They’re playing tough football, I would define them as a tough team”.

So, based on the formula laid out by the legendary Patriots Head Coach, tough teams run the ball, stop the run and cover kicks. 10 games into the season, the Packers are 8-2 but are they a tough team according to the definition?

1) Run the Football

The Packers have ran the ball well this year. Their effectiveness on the ground against teams like the Steelers, Bears, Cardinals and Seahawks were big reasons why they won those games. However, when you look a little deeper into the numbers, they might surprise you.

TeamNFL RankCategory
Packers12thTeam Rushing Attempts
Packers15thTeam Rushing Yards
PackersT-19thYards Per Carry (4.2)

Based on 3 key rushing metrics, the Packers are slightly above average on the ground. However, the Packers pass the eye test and a lot of their success boils down to play calling and how frequently Matt LaFleur commits to the run.

2) Stop the Run

The Packers defense has been rushed on the 9th fewest amount of times in the NFL (235). The leader in this statistic, the Baltimore Ravens, has been rushed on an NFL-fewest 191 times.

When teams attempt to run the ball against Green Bay’s defense, they average 4.6 yards per carry, which puts the Packers near the bottom of the league in this category. Based on the numbers, teams are having success when they run the ball against the Packers defense.

Why teams don’t run the ball more against the Packers is multi-faceted. Sometimes it’s because a play-caller doesn’t commit to it enough. Other times, a team may be trailing and is required to throw the ball more.

There’s no doubt that the Packers defense has been playing some really stellar defense over the last few weeks. Being short-handed two All-Pro’s on that side of the ball doesn’t make life easier. However, tomorrow’s game against the Vikings will be a great test for the rushing defense. Minnesota loves to get the ground game going against Green Bay, as evidenced by Dalvin Cook’s 163 yard, 4 touchdown performance against the Packers last season.

3) Cover Kicks

While the Packers might execute their field goal attempts as often as a coin lands on “Heads” after 100 flips, Bill Belichick didn’t make that a requirement to define a tough football team. He said tough football teams cover kicks effectively. Do the Packers cover kicks well?

According to the statistics, the Packers have a touchback rate of 42.6% when kicking off, which is the 5th lowest percentage in the NFL. That means teams are often returning the ball against the Packers kickoff coverage. On those returns, opponents are averaging 27.3 yards per return against Green Bay, which puts the Packers at 2nd worst in the league. The only franchise that allows more yards to opposing teams on kick returns is the Denver Broncos, at 35.7 yards per return.

Not a good start on the whole “Covering Kicks” thing but what about punts? The Packers rank 7th Best in the NFL with 90 yards allowed this season on Punt Returns. Currently, teams are averaging 6.92 yards per punt return against the Packers special teams, which is a respectable number posted by Green Bay.

So, are the Packers a Tough Football Team?

That’s for each NFL analyst, like Julian Edelman and for each fan to decide. In my opinion, they’ve certainly looked like a tough football team over the majority of the season and passed the physicality test with flying colors in recent games against the Cardinals, Chiefs and Seahawks. They definitely have passed the eye test as of late.

However, according to the metrics set by Belichick, they’re an above-average tough team but not an elite tough team. 7 Regular Season games still remain and one definition by one coach shouldn’t be the end-all-be-all. With that said, tomorrow’s game against the Vikings will be another great challenge for the Packers and another opportunity to prove that their toughness is for real.


Alex grew up in a family of Chicago Bears fans in the suburbs of Chicago but was always a Packers guy. Alex\'s AIM name when he was in elementary/middle school was PackerAlex. He now lives in Nashville, Tennessee and you can follow him on twitter at @Alex_Mayer93.